The spa explosion has elevated the old bang-‘em-up massage into an "experience" in self-indulgence, reality escape and psyche reconstruction not seen since the magic mushroom of 1970. All over the world spas are competing for the best services they can offer and as the shortage of skilled spa workers is massive, many women and men are justifiably wary of them. Fields of ignorance include getting stripped or not, smack and bang massages that will make them ache for days or whether they'll get a male or a female therapist. Hmmmmmm. Or just a simple concern on tipping for the service. These may be simple issues for those already spa-ed out but for someone who has never been in a spa, they are quite intimidating. Many new users haven't a clue about the etiquette expected in the use of a spa. And often the spas themselves don't really bother about etiquette. They just describe the treatments and the services which many times are just as alien to first-time users as an ayurvedic donut! Here are a few tips:
Have a spa tour. There are many spas that enjoy showing you the rooms and other facilities they have as well as the products they use. They want to reassure the client that they are professionals and not a hopped up chop shop. They also explain the services and treatments they offer. Some spas are wellness centers as well so they offer a whole range of bizarre sounding treatments that "cleanse" things many didn't even know they had. They supervise diets routines and just generally promise to return you to a placid state of nirvana like indifference. If you are staying in a resort or ship, the tour is easy to do as you can just request to have a tour of the facilities once you have settled in. In very good resorts with excellent spas, you might need to call and book prior to arrival as often you may not get a schedule at the time of your stay. It is then easy to ask for a tour when you arrive and if you are not satisfied, just cancel your reservation. Often, you see spas close to you or in a city where you are on holiday. Just go in and ask if you can have a tour. Most of them will accommodate you especially when they are not too busy
Ask questions. Some of your friends may have spa-ed or some members of your family may have tried the spa experience. Another trick is to prepare your list of questions and call up a spa in your area. Ask your questions from one of the professionals in their staff. The more you know, the less intimidating it becomes. Besides, some of the massages may not be what you expect as different cultures have different ways of doing things so ask your questions and be clear about what you want and not want done to you.
Arrive early. Most spas recommend this anyway when you book a treatment or a service. One of their staff will welcome you and offer a relaxing drink or a relaxing time in the pool, sauna or steam room. Check the walls for any indication of training certificates or awards.
Request a female or male therapist if you have a strong preference. Spas will always accommodate this. Do so when you book, not when you are already in the therapy room, as they may not have one of the requested gender available.
The therapists should be trained professionals and are expected to behave accordingly. You may or may not talk to them. They will always take their cue from you. If you signal that you enjoy getting to know them well, then be prepared for their whole life story. You also need to make them know whether the pressure is too much when they massage you or you want a stronger pressure used. Don't wait until you squeal...talk!
Dress comfortably. Leave your jewelry at home. It all just gets in the way. For massages, often they ask you to strip so they can do their job properly but if you are not comfortable, just talk to them and make it clear what you want. They will always adjust to what the customer wants.
Relax and trust the professionals who are there to give you a great experience and as relaxed as an over boiled pasta strand. Turn off your mobile phone and just let your body enjoy the pampering.
Understand what you are paying for and accept it as your investment in yourself. If the charge makes you worry, then it mars the experience and lessens the value. Go for value, like being in a mineral spring or a very relaxing environment with a million dollar garden or view or a truly organic garden that provides the spas with fresh food. Make sure, first and foremost, that the therapists have excellent training and experience and have not just learned the trade the week before. (That's why you checked the walls...remember?)
The general environment outside the spa is very important to your experience too. Floating out of the spa onto a Maldives Island or into a glorious villa garden just takes the whole experience and pushes it to another level. Give your partner one of life's great experiences next birthday. It will stay longer in the memory than most gifts.